In, on and around the Great Barrier Reef in Australia
Thirsty kangaroos in an endless, fire-red desert. Cork-dried eucalyptus forests through which fire storms rage every summer. Sun-drenched metropolises full of half-naked surf babes along a golden coastline. These are the clichés of Australia, but none of them refer to the tropical north of this huge country. North Australia is a desolate, untouched area where civilization dies in swampy billabongs, where the temperature never drops below thirty degrees, where the oldest rainforest on earth grows, where people and voracious crocodiles live together and where a jump into the azure sea is almost always life-threatening. In short, we love it there.
The ideal base for an immersion in Australia's Wet Tropics is Cairns, an extraordinarily relaxed tourist town on Queensland's northeast coast, full of brown-baked visitors and extremely friendly locals barbecuing in the park on the Esplanade or cooling off in the Lagoon, a beautiful free outdoor swimming pool overlooking the sea. You'll have all the comforts you need here, but you'll soon find yourself in the tropics. As the sea moves away at low tide, tens of thousands of mud crabs crawl over the mud beach. They get company from pelicans, ibis, terns, spoonbills, storks, all kinds of waders and the occasional hungry saltwater crocodile. Paddling is strongly discouraged, especially in the wet season (November to April), when the coastal waters are full of irukanji and box jellyfish, two extremely painful and often deadly species of jellyfish. Not to mention the sharks. But also in the city itself you notice that you are not in a normal location. Behind the library there are three gigantic trees in which large colonies of flying foxes hang upside down from the branches, awfully large bathounds that at sunset Batmanically skim over the boulevards to steal fruit from the trees in the forests north of the city.
Great Barrier Reef
Yet the main reason why so many tourists come to Cairns is about thirty kilometers into the sea. The Great Barrier Reef, the only sign of life on earth that can be seen from space, can be easily reached from Cairns with one of the numerous day trip boats. The fleet departs daily from the large and well-organized Reef Fleet Terminal next to the Lagoon, within walking distance of downtown. Snorkeling above The Reef is one of the most amazing nature experiences we've experienced anywhere. This is the coral reef of coral reefs. The richness of the colorful underwater jungle can't be described in words. You float in the middle of a psychedelic color palette full of swaying polyps, writhing corals and giant shells, while you are completely surrounded by large schools of glowing fish in all shapes, colors and sizes. Finding Nemo, but in real life.
Crocodiles and cassowaries
The Great Barrier Reef is a world heritage site, and so is the ancient strip of tropical rainforest that stretches north of Cairns. Near Cape Tribulation, where the paved road and civilization ends, these two unique pieces of natural beauty meet almost literally. It's a magical place of dense jungle that stretches all the way to the snow-white beaches. Moreover, this is the last piece of habitat of the cassowary, a one and a half meter high prehistoric flightless bird that, when it feels threatened, pulls at lightning speed with both razor-sharp dinoclaws in front of it. Although, to be honest, you're more likely to be eaten by an aggressive saltwater crocodile, which is certainly lurking en masse in the nearby Daintree River. Well, don't panic, as long as you stay out of the water there's nothing to worry about, although in the rainy season it's not always that easy, because then it floods spectacularly here. Those who have become afraid to penetrate north of Daintree can treat themselves to a much healthier rainforest experience by taking the Skyrail - the longest cable car in the world - over the tops of the trees to the lazy tourist village of Kuranda, a shamelessly commercial yet paradisiacal place surrounded by magnificent rainforest. Returning to Cairns you can take the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway, which runs along a number of spectacular waterfalls.
Bugs and barramundi
Back in Cairns after a wild day in nature? Then don't forget to taste the local specialties. The non-smoking (!) terraces on the Esplanade are the ideal place for a cold pint of beer or a bottle of white wine in an ice bucket, complemented by an unforgettable tasting of the culinary delights offered by the Wet Tropics. If you have the money, be sure to taste the mud crabs, the largest and most delicious crabs we've ever tasted. Steamed they are the most delicious. Also not to be missed, and unique to Australia, are bugs, a kind of le